Timmothy B. McCann
This Sunday, June 27, 1999, On The Same Page has the pleasure of interviewing author, Timmothy B. McCann. He was recently featured in the May-June Black Issues Book Review. His novel, Until... started out as a self-published book and was recently published by Avon Books.
M.T.: Oprah's book choice, Mother of Pearl, is written by a white woman who handles a black man's
point-of-view. Although you alternate between the male and female point-of-view, how do you handle a
black woman character's point-of-view, as a male writer?
T.M.: Good question. I use a technique in writing similar to an actor. There is a practice called Method Acting and in this style of acting you do not speak as the character, you become the character. Similar to what Denzel did in the movie Malcolm X. HE did not look like the character but it embodied the spirit. So when I am writing as a female I simply try to get into her flesh and the words flow freely. As for as mannerisms are concern I just close my eyes and wonder how it would sound if I was an over weight woman walking down a hall way or if I was an attorney getting a phone call? I would have earrings and I would have to remove them if the call was going to be lengthy.
M.T.: When did you know you wanted to become a writer? How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write, Until...?
T.M.: I started writing in the third grade. I would simply write short stories about friends toys and sports. I continued to write until I was in college when a friend in the football dorm read a love letter I left on my dresser. When I saw the letter it was TERRIBLE so I asked him how he felt when he saw her. After he told me I wrote a line that eventually made it into my novel. That line was "Have you ever seen someone for the first time . . . and just knew how much you missed them."
It took 4 years to write my novel Until... 90 days for the first draft and 36 months rewriting it over 50 times.
M.T.: Explain the symbolism or the surreal quality of the recurring dream which Betty has; how it relates to the early tragedy in her life, and how it affects her present.
T.M.: Betty burns the candle at both ends and in the middle. She has followed all the rules yet she is unsatisfied. She has a story I think many can relate to. What the dreams represent is submission to her inner fears. As long as she is awake she can work and do other things to avoid them, but at rest, the demons return and she must face them. The dreams also represent unresolved issues inside of her. Losing the two most important people in her life (her mother via death and her father walking away) shapes the way she will deal with each and every person she would encounter for the rest of her life.
M.T.: What are some of the themes of your book which you intended to portray? (I ask because sometimes the
reading audience get more out of a book than the author intends, which is a nice case of
'serendipity.' I've had readers pick up themes and symbolism which I wasn't aware was in the books
T.M.: Several and these are in no order. 1) Falling into friendship and the importance of doing so
instead of focusing on falling in love. 2) The bond of female friendship and the importance of
sisterhood. 3) Putting dreams off until and then wondering if it is worth it (I.E. Betty when she
gazes at the neighbor across the street) 4) How African Americans and Whites do business differently
and the struggle African Americans have, many of which they never learn in college.
M.T.: What made you choose a "relationship story?"
T.M.: I went through a relationship that if I had not written it would have killed me. It is said that falling in love for the first time, like the mumps, is best when experienced in once youth. It was literally the closest thing to death I have ever experienced and I wrote to release the pain. The novel started out as a documentary on paper of what I felt in order to bring some meaning to it all. But soon it evolved to much more to the point where it is now 100% fiction. (Yes, my attorney likes it when I add that part.) So to answer the question I did not choose the general, it chose me.
M.T.: What gave you the idea for the screenname 'Dlastromeo' in the novel?
T.M.: In college it was a name I was given and so it was a natural extension of my personality to
lend it to the character.
M.T.: Are you working on a new novel? Is your next book about a relationship?
T.M.: Actually book 2 has been sent to Avon and I am at work on book 3 which will be my manifesto. In regard to book two, yes it has a romantic . . or a relationship element but it focuses on politics. IF you can imagine if JFK was an African American male in the 90's you have an idea of the character Henry Louis Davis who is running for the presidency and contemplating the sacrifices he has made now that he is at the brink of achieving a lifetime goal.
Concerning book III, its a sequel to Until ... entitled ... Do Us Part and while I cannot tell you a lot about it this early I can tell you it deals with issues such as marriage, family, death, trust and fidelity. It will be 550 plus pages, which is rare for African American novels but it's a story that I do not wish to take shorts on.
M.T.: Tell us how you self-published, how you marketed, and how you were picked up by Avon Books. Do you have an agent?
T.M.: Like most writers it seems now days I self published first and I did it primary on the net. When I approached NY about Until I was turned down for various reasons. One agent told me I could not get it picked up because my main character Drew was not believable. HE said black women would not believe a black man could be such a gentlemen. So I self- published and 2000 books and $20,000 of gross profits later NY was ready to listen. I marketed and still do via my website (www.dlastromeo.com) and massive E mails.
M.T.: Where do you see the future of Black male writers?
T.M.: Doors are falling every day. E. Lynn is on the NY Times list now and I truly expect Eric Dickey to hit it if not with this book (Cheaters) with his next. There are other brothers such as Franklin White, Colin Chainer and Omar Tyree who are turning out incredible sagas as well, so in answer to your question I hope you have shades cause the future is very bright.
Thank you, Mr. McCann.